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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Primary porcine proximal tubular cells as an alternative to human primary renal cells in vitro: an initial characterization

Alexandra H Heussner and Daniel R Dietrich*

Author Affiliations

Human and Environmental Toxicology, University of Konstanz, 78457 Konstanz, Germany

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BMC Cell Biology 2013, 14:55  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-14-55

Published: 5 December 2013



A good in vitro model should approximate an in vivo-like behavior as closely as possible in order to reflect most likely the in vivo situation. Regarding renal physiology of different species, humans are more closely related to pigs than to rodents, therefore primary porcine kidney cells (PKC) and their subsequent cell strain could be a valid alternative to primary human cells for renal in vitro toxicology. For this PKC must display inherent characteristics (e.g. structural organization) and functions (e.g. transepithelial transport) as observed under in vivo conditions within the respective part of the kidney.


We carried out a comprehensive characterization of PKC and their subsequent cell strain, including morphology and growth as well as transporter expression and functionality. The data presented here demonstrate that PKC express various transporters including pMrp1 (abcc1), pMrp2 (abcc2), pOat1 (slc22a6) and pOat3 (slc22a8), whereas pMdr1 (abcb1) and pOatp1a2 (slco1a2) mRNA could not be detected in either the PKCs or in the porcine cortical tissue. Functionality of the transporters was demonstrated by determining the specific PAH transport kinetics.


On the basis of the presented results it can be concluded that PKC and to some extent their subsequent cell strain represent a valuable model for in vitro toxicology, which might be used as an alternative to human primary cells.

Primary porcine proximal tubular cells; Transporter expression; OAT; MRP; MDR; OATP; Cellular uptake; In vitro model